Today Lois Winston is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about A Sew Deadly Cruise, the latest novel in the Anastacia Pollack Crafting mystery series.
Welcome, Lois. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
A Sew Deadly Cruise is the ninth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. There are also three connecting novellas.
Anastasia is a suburban mom of two teenage boys and the crafts editor at a women’s magazine. Her perfect middle-class life disappears the day her husband drops dead at a roulette table in Las Vegas. That’s when she discovers he’s gambled away their savings and left her in debt greater than the GNP of most Third World nations. She’s also permanently stuck with her nasty communist mother-in-law and a loan shark demanding fifty thousand dollars—or else. Anastasia needs to find ways to dig herself out of debt, as well as stay one step ahead of the loan shark. If only all those dead bodies weren’t getting in her way…
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
As the series has progressed, so has Anastasia’s relationship with photojournalist (and possible spy) Zachary Barnes. Up to this point in the series, readers know very little about Zack’s backstory other than he was briefly married many years ago. In A Sew Deadly Cruise I decided it was time to fill both Anastasia and my readers in on Zack’s background. Of course, this being a mystery series, you know there will be dead bodies involved!
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
If you want me to go deep and heavy, I suppose the theme of the book is how what we experience in our youth often shapes us into the adults we become. But keep in mind, I write a humorous series. So the heaviness of the theme is balanced out by the way I, through my characters, use humor to lighten the mood and deal with often deeply emotional issues.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
Some of my characters spring completely out of my imagination. Others are inspired by people I’ve known. There’s quite a bit of me in Anastasia, although if I ever tripped over a dead body (which I haven’t and hope I never will!), I’d leave the investigating to the professions.
The one character who is inspired completely by a real person is Anastasia’s mother-in-law Lucille. She’s modelled after my own, now-deceased, communist mother-in-law—right down to every mean bone in her body. She’s the character many of my readers love to hate—for good reason!
As for favorite characters, I’d have to say I’m partial to Anastasia because she’s pretty much my alter-ego since we share many life experiences. Zack is another favorite because how can you not love a mystery man whose DNA springs from the same primordial soup as Pierce Brosnan, George Clooney, and Antonio Banderas? And then there’s Ralph, the Shakespeare-quoting African Grey parrot Anastasia inherited from her great-aunt.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
Unlike many cozy authors who set their books in fictitious small towns, I decided to set my series in a suburb of New York City. Anastasia lives in a real New Jersey town. I find it easier to keep things straight if I’m writing about places that actually exist, rather than trying to remember the ins and outs of a fictitious town where I constantly have to refer back to previous books to remember where I set the library or the distance to the nearest shopping center. I often receive emails from readers who will tell me they know exactly where something in the book took place, having been there themselves. I’ve found readers enjoy making that connection.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
Most of the plots and subplots in my books are inspired by actual events I’ve experienced or read about. I’m a huge news junkie and keep a binder of interesting articles that I refer to for inspiration when I begin to flesh out a story.
For A Sew Deadly Cruise, I used my own experience from having taken several cruises in past years. I also did quite a bit of research into maritime law and other issues that impacted my story. For law enforcement and medical issues, I rely on the professionals who are members of an online group I belong to where authors can receive answers to questions they post.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
I hope I’ve piqued your readers’ interest in my series, and they’ll want to get to know Anastasia. For those of you who enjoy pets in your mysteries, along with the aforementioned Ralph, the Pollack household also includes Lucille’s French bulldog Manifesto (I ask you, who names a dog after a communist treatise?) and her mother’s corpulent Persian cat, Catherine the Great. Mama claims descent from Russian nobility, making for quite a bit of conflict between her and Lucille!
Thanks for answering my questions, Lois, and good luck with A Sew Deadly Cruise, the latest book in theAnastacia Pollack Crafting Mystery series.
Readers can learn more about Lois and her writing by visiting her website and her Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers blog, as well as her Pinterest, Bookbub and Goodreads pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Lois Winston: USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.